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September 2005

Laptop Lunch Times: September 2005

The Laptop Lunch Times

September 2005

Back to School...

We hope this newsletter finds you rested and ready to start the new school year! Be sure to find a quiet time to sit down with your family to compile a list of nutritious, waste-free lunch foods to pack this school year. Don't forget to revisit pages 52-61 and 87-88 of The Laptop Lunch User's Guide for ideas that your children may have grown into over the summer.

If you'd like your school to take a more active role in promoting waste-free lunches, consider printing off the following free downloadable publications:

The Waste-free Lunchbox:

Two-sided parent letter:

School Promotions and Fundraisers:
Amy and Tammy

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Monthly Menu

  • Sandwich Fun
  • Green Opportunities
  • Making Your School Healthier for Your Child
  • New Retailers!
  • Building a Better Lunchbox
  • Where Simplicity and Sustainability Meet
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories
Laptop Lunch Photo with Food

Monthly Menu

Sandwich Fun

Want to start the school year with a bit of spunk? Try these some of these non-PB & J options!

#1:Tomato Surprise

  • Thinly sliced fresh tomato
  • Thinly sliced lowfat (or soy) mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • Thinly sliced red onion (optional)
  • Pine nuts
  • Minced garlic in a small amount of olive oil
  • On francese bread

#2: Nut 'n Berry

  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Lowfat cream cheese or goat cheese mixed with a small amount of orange juice, chopped walnuts, and chopped celery (optional)
  • Juice-sweetened dried cranberries
  • Lettuce

#3: Bagel Bounty

  • Whole wheat bagel
  • Hummus or baba ganouj spread
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Shredded carrot
  • Thinly sliced tomato (optional)

Green Opportunities

Some earth-friendly tidbits that have landed in our office in recent weeks...

  • Here's a message from KidPower TeenPower FullPower International: SAFETY TIP OF THE MONTH: SLOW DOWN Being in too much of a hurry is a sure recipe for trouble. Rushing can lead to accidents and to an increased likelihood of putting yourself into a dangerous situation instead of noticing and avoiding it. Being in a hurry also can cause you to miss out on joyous moments with others and on seeing the beauty in the world around you. So SLOW DOWN! Take the time you need to take care of yourself and to enjoy your life. For more information about their safety programs, visit their Web site at

  • If you're looking for a way to reduce your energy bills at home, school, or work, visit for a wide selection of clever switch plate decals. They're offering a discount to Laptop Lunch readers. All three styles are 2-1/4" x 4-1/4" vinyl stock, ready to ship. If you'd like your own message or logo on a decal, they can do that too. Contact Denis by email at [email protected] or by phone at 800-875-1725--mention that you read about them in the Laptop Lunch Times.

    $2.00 24 or less
    $1.50 25-49
    $1.25 50-249
    $1.00 250-499
    $.62 500-999
    $.36 1000-1499

  • Can school lunches be sustainable? Visit to find out what's being served for lunch in U.S. schools.

  • Listen to the trill of the flitting songbirds... see the butterflies sipping nectar from native wildflowers...hear the plop of a frog jumping into the pond....This isn't your yard you say? Well, it could be, and it doesn't matter where you live or how much space you have. National Wildlife Federation will help you create a thriving habitat for wildlife and certify it as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat site! For more information visit their Web site at

  • If you've got yet-to-be-recycled plastic bags accumulating in your garage because you're not sure where to take them, visit, set up by the American Plastics Council. Click on "General Public," then "Search for a Drop-off Location" and type in your ZIP code to find a local recycle drop-off.

  • Looking for a shopping blog devoted to the green, eco-friendly consumer? Check out They comb the Web looking for products to help you live a greener life.

  • Green for Good ( is a group of business professionals from a variety of backgrounds (technology, marketing, legal and sports broadcasting among the many) who understand the value and benefits of green and organic products and are committed to bringing these products to consumers worldwide. Through their extensive affiliate network, shoppers are able to choose from thousands of products unavailable at any other single Web site.

  • Making Your School Healthier for Your Child

    (Excerpted From the new PTA Parent

    Parents can improve physical activity and nutrition at their children’s schools by teaming up with their school communities to establish wellness policies. Under a new federal law, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, your school district is required to work with parents and other members of the school community to develop and implement wellness policies by the start of the 2006-2007 school year.

    Here are some tips on how you can be involved:

    Do a status check. Visit the school, talk to the principal, and work with your PTA to find out what kids are eating at school, whether junk food is readily available, and how much time is provided for recess and other physical activities.

    Get in the loop. Find out who at your school will be working on the wellness policy. Remember, parents must be involved in the process.

    Build support. Work with your PTA to develop a wellness committee for your school, if one doesn’t already exist. Reach out to parents, teachers, the principal, students, administrators, food service staff, and the school nurse to find ways to improve school health for your child.

    Spread the word. Use newsletters, bulletin boards, e-mail, or word of mouth to make sure your community knows what you are doing to make positive changes in your school.

    National PTA is here to help you as you get involved in making your school a healthier place for your child. We’ve been working with many other organizations to provide you with model wellness policies that your school can adapt to its needs.

    Tips provided from Healthy Lifestyles at Home and School Notebook, a back-to-school resource for PTAs from National PTA and Parents' Action for Children. The notebook was sent to all PTAs in August in a special Back-to-School Kit.

    New Retailers

    We're pleased to announce that Laptop Lunches are now available at these fine stores. Please pass this news on to friends and family in the area!

    Golden Apple Learning Store
    4807 Hopyard Road
    Pleasanton, CA 94588

    Telephone: (800) 858-8308
    Gems, Inc.
    719 G Avenue
    Grundy Center, IA 50638

    Telephone: (319) 825-4367
    Mother & Child
    Greystone Plaza
    650 Amherst Street
    Nashua, NH 03063

    Telephone: (603) 886-6727
    3801 East Mercer Way
    Mercer Island, WA 98040

    Telephone: (206) 323-8525
    Kiss the Cook
    72 Church St.
    Burlington, VT 05401

    (888) 658-KISS
    Back to the Land
    142 Seventh Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11215

    Telephone: (718) 768-5654
    Maplewood Quilts
    32 Depot Square
    Northfield, VT 05663

    (802) 485-4325

Published July/August 2005

Building a better lunchbox

FRANCESCA CHAPMAN, New York Times Regional Newspapers

When Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring set out to build a better lunchbox, they didn't approach the project as inventors or designers or marketers.

They did it as moms.

The two Northern California women, who didn't consider themselves to be any more health-conscious or eco-aware than their Santa Cruz friends and neighbors, were volunteering at their children's school four years ago when they began to pay attention to what kids were bringing to lunch.

The tidy lunch boxes encourage portion control, a boon to parents concerned about childhood obesity. The boxes let parents parcel out individual servings from economy-sized items.

Read the rest of the article at

Francesca Chapman writes for the New York Times Regional Newspapers.

Where Simplicity and Sustainability Meet

Betsy Teutsch, Weavers Way Shuttle, July 2005

Simplicity Dividend:

Voluntary simplicity and ecological sustainability, two important guides to modifying our high-consumption lifestyles, do not always overlap. The simplicity approach invites us to evaluate our life's triangle of time, money, and stuff, asking if all the things we spend our time working for and expend additional time maintaining are indeed worth it. Answering this question allows us to evaluate what adds value to our lives and what doesn’t, with an emphasis on not wasting either our time or our financial resources on the superfluous. Sustainability asks a different question: how can we decrease our resource consumption and minimize our gigantic western ecological foot prints? Sustainability refers to the rate at which resources consumed can be replaced, with the ideal that we do not take more from the earth than can be replenished in our lifetime.

Sometimes these noble ideals overlap, such as downsizing to a smaller home. With less house to maintain and pay for, one expends less time and money, while using fewer resources to heat, cool, and clean it. This simplifies life and it is more sustainable as well. However, sometimes simplicity and sustainability conflict. It would be simpler to use all disposables. Why wash anything when plastics are so cheap, you might ask? But single-use plastics (manufactured from petroleum, a non-renewable resource) obviously waste resources, so simple, yes; sustainable, no. Highly motivated environmentalists go carless; others, me included, would find local life without a car tortuous. Sustainable, yes. Simple? No! So sometimes simple and sustainable part ways.

What follows is a list of ten simple AND sustainable habits to cultivate, some nearly effortless. A few require a bit of up front effort and/or expenditure, but yield quick payback. Others are easy but cost a little more than their less sustainable alternative; spending more on something of value is not in conflict with simplicity, especially if sustainability is a value you are willing to underwrite. Some actions are tiny, some are more consequential. Every change makes a difference, especially if multiplied by many households making the same change.

1. Turn out lights when not in use! Funny how much effort it seems to take to just flick a switch. If you find this habit difficult to cultivate (kids seem especially resistant), investigate installing occupancy sensors which turn out lights if no motion is detected within a specified amount of time, usually a few minutes.

2. Do not keep your car engine idling if you will be stopped for more than one minute. In fact, ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine. You’ll be surprised how often this is relevant. You can listen to the radio without the engine on, by the way. This is virtually effortless, requiring only thinking and then turning the key in the ignition. Not only will your fuel consumption decrease, but your car’s polluting emissions will be minimized, benefiting the rest of us as well.

3. Buy the largest possible container available, providing you will be able to consume the contents. Putting this principle into action is rather fun, because it challenges you to think strategically about reducing packaging material. Two sixteen ounce yogurt containers have two tops; one 32-oz yogurt container has one top of more or less the same size. Voila, one less top is consumed. I now buy detergent in a container that I can barely carry, yielding one top for the whole year, instead of my previous five or six. Because supermarket profit margin is higher on smaller packages, the largest size of a product is rarely at eye-level; you will need to look carefully. This requires a tiny bit of effort, but once you understand the principle, it’s very little work, saves you money, time, and minimizes resource consumption.

4. When cooking spaghetti, use angel hair pasta - it cooks in two minutes. Angel hair comes with egg added, a protein bonus if your kids are “pastatarians.” And you can make lasagna with no-cook noodles or just using regular lasagna noodles and adding more sauce. These choices save time, fuel, and even yield one less pot to wash.

5. Use powdered drinks or make your own home-brewed iced tea. Lugging soft drinks is arduous, and while they seem inexpensive (especially with one brand always on sale), they are far more expensive than powdered drinks. Most of what you pay for with bottled sodas is packaging and water. Diet drinks offer no food value whatsoever yet consume energy and raw materials in their manufacture and transport, mostly for the container. You can make iced tea by the pitcher for just the cost of a few tea bags and a little sweetener. There are teas available which can be brewed with cold water, consuming even less energy. With minimal effort you can save yourself the soda schlep, cut back on cost, and minimize manufacturing inputs (energy, packaging, and transportation). I now think of a can of diet soda as a treat, not an everyday thing. This is a form of precycling, eliminating the package up front.

6. Only soap once when you shampoo your hair. The standard two sudsings followed by a conditioner rinse is a recent development, undoubtedly created by the shampoo industry. Use half the shampoo, less of your time, and save both the hot water showering down on you and the energy required to heat it. You can also further save time by using a shampoo-conditioner combination, though I have noticed it’s becoming harder to find. One of my friends buys shampoo in a dry block at the Weavers Way’s 2nd floor store, eliminating even the bottle!

7. Use rechargeable batteries. Investing in a battery charger and batteries is an initially a $30-50 investment, depending on how many batteries you buy. It pays for itself many times over of course, since one battery can be recharged dozens of times, eliminating the manufacture, purchase, and disposal all those un-needed batteries. It requires very little effort, though if you don’t have a set of charged batteries on hand, it takes a few hours to charge them. The technology has changed quickly, so it’s worth doing some on-line investigating and comparison shopping to decide which types and systems to buy.

8. Buy recycled paper. In response to eco-consumer activism, mainstream chain stores now carry recycled paper. It costs a few cents more per ream, but purchasing it increases the demand for recycling. It takes less energy to create a new product out of recycled materials than virgin components, so this is a very simple, effective way to support environmental responsibility in the marketplace. Recycled-paper content varies from 10% to 100% and is clearly marked on the package. "Post-consumer" refers to paper that was used once and recycled, as opposed to recycling scraps left over in the manufacturing process. It looks the same as virgin pulp paper now, by the way, no more flecks.

9. Walk or bike to the gym! Janet Luhrs, author of Simple Living, observes how ridiculous it is to pay to get exercise. Many of us do think it’s worth paying to be members of a gym, but it is ironic that we drive there. It takes me twenty minutes to bike to the gym, and ten to drive. Doing the math, I basically get ten free minutes of exercise, don’t have to waste time driving or hassle with parking, and am warmed-up when I arrive at the gym. A bonus benefit: on the way home, I can easily park my bike at the coop, even if school is letting out and the school buses are there!

10. Explore xeriscaping, landscaping with native species. Native species need less watering and chemical inputs, so they take less time and fewer resources to maintain. Think about transforming that old-fashioned lawn, which requires weed-killer, watering and mowing, into a native meadow which can become a mini-preserve for butterflies and hummingbirds. This is a large, long-term project, but ultimately it is easier to maintain and lighter on the earth, fulfilling the simple and sustainable criteria perfectly.

Betsy Teutsch is active in environmental organizations in Philadelphia, with a particular interest in practical ways we can each adapt our lifestyles to be more sustainable and build community connections. You can see her artwork at

What Works...Success Stories

  • "Thanks for making a great product. We use our Laptop Lunch all the time, and my son likes it very much. I enjoy making his and being creative about what to put in it. I have received many comments about how healthy and appealing my son’s lunches look, and he didn’t opt to eat the school cafeteria food even once last year! Lunchtime at school is a very short, busy and distracting time. Even though he usually does not eat all his lunch, I really like knowing what he ate and how much.”

       -- Robin Silberling, Austin, TX


  • "I bought Laptop Lunchboxes for my husband and I. We are the busy, working parents of a 14 month-old. Laptop Lunchboxes are great for grownups too! I like the way the food is presented in the box and it's so easy to pack our lunches while I'm cooking at night. At work it's easy to nibble from the box at my desk or go outside for a picnic. My husband's job keeps him driving all day. He can leave the box open on the passenger seat and nosh when he has time. Smaller kid-sized portions are good for both of us too. With an active baby in the house, we need to keep our energy up and our dining-out expenses down. Thanks for such a great product. "

       -- Joanna, Ben Lomond, CA

  • "I just wanted to thank you for your products and for your great Web site!

"You suggest using cloth napkins, and I just wanted to mention that I've been using bandanas as napkins for quite some time-- they're cheap, they come in lots of colors and patterns, and kids really enjoy using them. Thanks again for all you do!"

   -- Cynthia Miller, Richfield, MN

  • "I love the silverware." Robert, age 9
  • "I read about you and your business in the San Jose Mercury News a few years ago. We bought your lunch box for my son when he was only a couple years old at Linden Tree in Los Altos, and we use it all the time.

    "Thanks for coming up with a great product and for all the food/recipe/eating suggestions in the book and the monthly e-mails!"

       --Natalie, Mountain View, CA

  • "I was chatting with a group of moms today at a birthday party. They all started talking about back-to-school shopping and where to get the "new lunchbox" for the year. I couldn't believe what a fuss there was about this very basic and functional item! When they all looked at me, I just explained that we have the same one we've had for three years - it's goin' strong and my daughters love it! They all just nodded and said, 'Oh, you got that expensive one, right? Yeah, there's no way I could afford that...' I calmly explained that I thought the same thing when I bought my two Laptop Lunch Systems, but that that was back in 2002, so I've saved WAY more than I've spent!

    "Thank you again for a great product!"

       --Lizanne Schader, Bellingham, WA

Do you have a success story or photo to share? Email it to us at [email protected].


Featured Web Site:

CHOICE (Citizens for Healthy Options In Children's Education) was launched in 1994 by a group of concerned parents to promote wholesome plant-based meals and nutrition education in our nation's schools.


CHOICE produces and distributes teaching materials, supports parents working for change in their schools, assists school administrators and food service providers in developing healthier meals, encourages students to select healthier food choices, and reports on similar efforts throughout the U.S.

Visit their Web site at to learn what you can do--as a parent, teacher, administrator or student--to improve the quality of food at your school.

The Problem - Diet and Health

A healthy diet is extremely important for children. Children's bodies are still developing, and their dietary choices are more influenced by those of their peers, their parents, and the food industries' advertising. The eating habits they develop early in life will likely follow them into adulthood.

Yet, school cafeterias across the country routinely serve meals laden with saturated fat, cholesterol, excess protein, hormones, drugs, and salt. It is a diet that contradicts good nutrition practices and promotes chronic illness, bacterial infections, and obesity. Moreover, these children's early dietary habits become lifelong addictions.

Consider the following:

School lunches contain 33% of calories from fat, including 12% from saturated fat, while U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 30% and 10%, respectively.

• 90% of children consume amounts of fat above the recommended level.

• Less than 15% of children eat the minimum daily recommended servings of fruit, and 35% eat no fruit on a given day.

• Only 17% of children consume the minimum daily recommended servings of vegetables, and 20% eat no vegetables on a given day.

• 15% of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight, and the Surgeon General has reported that obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, particularly among children.

• 25% of children ages 5 to 10 have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other early warning signs for heart disease.

• As many as 30,000 children have Type 2 diabetes, once limited largely to adults.

• The past decade has had 300 outbreaks of school food poisoning, affecting 16,000 students.

Learn more at (ChoiceUSA is supported entirely by individual contributions.)

October Highlights

Tofu recipes, green opportunities, and "Animals have feelings Too!"

Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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© September 2005 Obentec, Inc.

849 Almar Ave., Suite C-323
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Feel free to reprint or forward this newsletter with the following acknowledgment and contact information clearly visible: "Thank you to Obentec, Inc. for permission to use this copyrighted material. For more information, contact Obentec, Inc. by email at [email protected] or by phone at 831-457-0301, or visit their Web site at Reprint permission granted with this full notice included."